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Births not keeping pace with deaths / December 10, 2012
The number of births in Halifax County has dropped steadily for the past five years and is failing to keep up with the number of deaths, underscoring the likelihood of continued local population declines unless an influx of newcomers makes up for the county’s losses.

Falling birth rates, high rates of death and mixed data on the cancer and heart disease-related mortality are all part of the county’s health profile for 2011, the latest available from the Virginia Department of Health. The VDH released the 2011 community profiles at the end of November.

As far as the population outlook is concerned, the data suggests that Halifax County is caught in the double-whammy of an aging citizenry that is passing from the scene even as young people are moving away with increasing frequency.

The 2010 census indicated that Halifax County lost 3 percent of its population over the prior decade, with about half the drop — 543 people — attributable to outmigration. Halifax’s population also fell by another 565 people over the decade because the death rate exceeded the birth rate — so-called “natural decline.”

The 2011 data from VDH suggests the county’s population challenges are growing even more daunting as time goes on.

There were only 316 live births last year, by far the lowest number over the past five years. In 2010, Halifax County recorded 365 live births; in 2007, the number was 419.

In 2011 about half of all babies (157) were born to unmarried mothers, roughly consistent with the trend for the five-year period dating back to 2007.

Across the state of Virginia, by contrast, only about a third (35.5 percent) of all babies in 2011 were born to unwed mothers.

Halifax County and two other counties in the Southside planning district — Mecklenburg and Brunswick — had an unusually low number of abortions in 2011, with an incidence far below the state average and markedly lower than that in past years.

VDH recorded only 13 abortions among Halifax County women for the year; across the three-county planning district, 95 women opted for abortions. The prior year, 2010, saw six times as many Halifax County abortions (80) and about two-and-a-half times as many across the planning district (239).

After 2011, the year with the fewest Halifax County abortions was 2008 (57). The sharp drop-off in 2011 is anomalous with the statewide trend; while the number of abortions in Virginia has fallen from 27,292 in 2007 to 23,635 in 2011, the decline has been relatively gradual, and the 2010 and 2011 statewide totals were little changed from each other.

Consistent with the steadily declining birth rate in Halifax County, 2011 also saw the fewest number of low birth-weight babies (30) locally than during any other time in the five-year period.

Arrayed against the 316 live births that took place in Halifax County in 2011 is the number of deaths, 454. The shortfall of births compared to deaths was wider than that during any other year in the five-year period, both in real terms and as a percentage of the county’s overall population.

The data suggests Halifax County’s annual rate of natural decline is approaching four-tenths of one percent, an accelerating pace. By contrast, in 2007 the local rate of natural decline (births vs. deaths) was .13 percent.

Other findings contained in Halifax County’s 2011 profile include the following data points:

103 county residents died of cancer, giving Halifax County a higher cancer mortality rate than the state as a whole, although not a rate deemed significantly above average by VDH researchers.

Similarly, Halifax County experienced higher-than-average, though not abnormally high, rates of deaths from cardiovascular disease (heart and lung disorders) and cerebrovascular disease (strokes and related brain dysfunctions). In this respect Halifax County fared better than Mecklenburg and Brunswick, fellow counties in Planning District 13. As a whole, the planning district produced rates of death from cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease that were significantly higher than the statewide average.

Overall, Halifax County had a death rate for all ages in 2011 that significantly exceeded the statewide average, according to the VDH. The rate of total deaths in Halifax County, age adjusted and calculated per 100,000 population, was 858.9 persons, compared to 735.8 for Virginia as a whole. In Planning District 13, the total deaths rate was 881.1 persons.

The VDH community health profiles can be found on-line at

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